Article by Xero partner consultant manager Geoffrey Pyman
I remember my first day working in a technology role.
It was mid-1999 and I scored a gig at a large telco, building and maintaining a graphical mapping database to start digitising their network.
Back then, whenever they wanted to upgrade or replace their existing system, it required people to come in after hours to ensure everything was maintained and up to date.
Fast forward twenty years and many businesses across many industries still operate this way, relying on systems that require manual updates and management.
Meanwhile, others have embraced the kind of digitisation I worked on in 1999: by using cloud processes to change the way they do business.
Practitioners in the accounting industry have faced the same choice – and as the manager of Xero’s partner consulting team, I lead a team of ex-accountants who support practice owners to discover what the cloud can deliver to their practice.
While we see the upside of cloud technology in action every day, we appreciate it’s still relatively new to a lot of accounting and bookkeeping firms.
So I’d like to share three key approaches I recommend when considering a move to the cloud.
Consider your pain points rather than your requirements
When business owners scope out new cloud technology, it can be natural to sit back and ask for a laundry list of features to make sure they match the way you currently do business.
But making the most of cloud solutions is about more than a lift-and-shift of your processes.
Instead, switch your thinking and ask yourself what pain points you are trying to relieve.
Perhaps your senior accountants are spending too long trying to get information from a reliable source, or your debtor days are out of control.
When you focus your attention on things that need fixing and experience new ways of working as a result, you tailor your experience to create maximum impact from the start.
Understand your business and processes – and what frustrates your team
With that in mind, this is the ideal opportunity to engage your team and ask them about your end-to-end businesses processes – the steps involved, the time it takes, and who completes what task and when. You’ll know about the outputs you deliver as a team, but as humans who think and work differently, the steps that individuals follow can vary over time.
These conversations can help you identify existing frustrations and new efficiencies.
They’ll also shed some light on your team’s attitude and expectations about the prospect of change.
Start planning ahead of time
Once you’ve decided to move your practice to the cloud, there are a number of ways you can prepare for the change and minimise disruption.
Even if you’re 12 months out from the switch, there is still plenty for you to do.
For example, it’s worth talking to your team about the change and what they would like to see from it. Getting their buy-in early on will be essential and a good way to start is by including them.
You can also prepare by digitising your paper records and cleaning up your client database to make sure the information you bring over is relevant to your practice.
Finally, it’s important to consider a phased approach to implementation.
You will need to look at how to provide financial reporting, when to introduce any tax compliance processes and when to introduce a workflow or time-based billing tool (or move towards bundled services).
Cloud technology has the potential to completely transform the way we do business.
The competitive advantage will go to those accountants and bookkeepers who are brave enough to take the leap.